Dealing in Doubt

by Mike Gaworecki

March 25, 2010

The world’s attention was focused on Copenhagen last December when world leaders met to discuss a global climate treaty. And as climate legislation is still slowly making its way through Congress, global warming continues to be big news. All of which, of course, has whipped climate deniers into a seething, frothing-at-the-mouth frenzy.

You’ve probably noticed that climate deniers have been in full attack mode lately. But you might not know that while climate science as a field of inquiry has been around for over a century, the climate denial industry is relatively new, having only been around a couple decades.

In the past century we’ve certainly deepened our knowledge of how the global climate works, and the basics of climate science have been more or less understood and accepted during that time. Andy Revkin at the NYT wrote a good blog post back in January about when “the real number crunching” began on carbon emissions and how they might impact the global climate. That was all the way back in the ‘50s, so around 60 years ago. This video, as an example, is from 1958:

It wasn’t until the past 20 years, when the urgency of stopping global warming became more and more widely recognized, that there was all of a sudden “doubt” about climate science. Conveniently, these doubts arose just as lawmakers the world over began considering regulations on carbon emissions that would deal with the climate crisis — and would also adversely impact the bottom lines of fossil fuels companies, energy providers, and other big polluters who are making a killing while dumping millions of tons of carbon pollution into our atmosphere every year.

These doubts about climate science were of course completely manufactured by dirty energy companies, their lobbyists, and their pals at various institutions that make up the Great Climate Denial Machine. These polluter barons are more than happy to continue poisoning and polluting the atmosphere as long as they can keep profiting from their unsustainable business models. Our own Cindy Baxter at Greenpeace International wrote up a report called Dealing in Doubt to tell the entire sordid tale of the 20-year campaign to block progressive climate and clean energy legislation through a deliberate campaign of lies and misinformation.

The anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory has been widely corroborated by decades-worth of data compiled by research institutions across the globe. Climate deniers know they can’t attack the science head on, so the only thing left for them to do is muddy the debate by sowing enough doubt to justify further delays. Dealing in Doubt lays out exactly how they’ve done that for the past 20 years. It’s worth a read for anyone who wants to understand how we got where we are in the climate debate, and wants to help forge a path toward a clean energy future by countering the lies and misinformation of the climate denial industry.

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